A phone call. My third one in this new year 2012. The first one was an inquiry into the opening I have for a new member at my photo studio; the second was a solicitation. So, the first call, if it pans out, would end up putting money in my pocket, while the second call was trying to snatch dollars out of it. I was quite eager to find out what lay behind call #3.
“I’ve got two extra tickets to the Rose Parade. Do you and Bella want to go?”
Hmmm. This opportunity wouldn’t be putting much-needed shekels into my pocket, but neither would it be siphoning them out.
“Absolutely!” I said.
The hour was early—a 5 a.m. alarm and I needed a shower; I needed coffee. The roads were congested; it was the busiest Sunday of auto and pedestrian traffic that I’ve ever seen. Did I say it was early? Like, still dark out?
Once we were dropped off and walking towards Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard (the main route of the parade), I kept wondering where our seats would be—looking to my left, looking down at my ticket, looking right—until my friend stopped in front of a security checkpoint where tickets were acknowledged, bags rummaged and conformists flagged through. It was like being allowed to walk the red carpet—very exclusive.
We also flagged a little humping our holiday-heavy arses up the subsequent hill, but imagine our early morning, bleary-eyed reaction when we saw that our seats were right on the street—in the front row.
After inundating my friend with much kudos, I paused; I could hear money disappearing from my pocket. I now owed her a steak dinner in return for these rockin’ seats and her generous last-minute invitation (though, if I was the second or third call she’d made, can a $23 steak become a $6 burrito?).
Our two girls went up to their fourth row seats (backrests; thumbs up) while my friend and I set up camp right across from the main grandstand and the t.v. announcers. If you watch the replay of the parade on t.v. and see the big brown Norton Simon Museum in the background; if you use your remote to go frame-by-frame; and if you have a seriously expensive high definition television, you can periodically pick out my daughter’s pink jacket and my blinding white shirt with a black blob up where my eye should be which is my camera. There it is for all to see: My 15 Minutes of Fame (it actually adds up to a total of approximately 4.23 minutes, but who’s counting?).
So, with our feet on the street, the rising sun to our left and the swiftly moving parade to our right, I finally had my first Rose Parade experience. Well, no—all right—my first time was about six years ago when it rained during the parade for the first time in fifty years. We were up off a side street at the very end of the parade route behind masses of early arrivals. Though the floats were incredible, with our rain-soaked shoes, the raw and chilly air, and our distressed (okay, persistently whiny) friend’s child who only wanted to go home, the experience was not one for the books—so nah, I’m not counting that one.
This year’s event was held on a cloudless day, the temperature rising quickly from “pretty damn chilly” to “yes, we’re all getting burned only on the left side our of faces cuz our heads are looking right towards the oncoming floats”. But being so up close and personal was mesmerizing. The choice of Grand Marshall, J.R. Martinez, an Iraqi vet who suffered burns over 40% of his body and that disfigured his face, was inspiring, and I’m sure he rode the tide of our collective emotions for the entire 5 1/2 mile parade route. Two hours flew by. Amazingly, my camera battery held out despite the 712 images I shot; that evening, it took me a second or two to connect the dots when I realized how stiff and sore my shoulders and arms were.
But then, lo and behold, another parade came along. Yes, it was pushed to one side by the uniformed sherriffs and didn’t have fancy floats or a gazillion tubas, but the signage was compelling. “Occupy” had arrived. I thought, Now we’re talking!
Well, the second they could be seen by the grandstand occupants a rain of boos were hurled down upon them and I thought, the 99% is booing the 99%!
So, of course, I climbed up onto my seat and started clapping and hooting and hollering my support (much to my daughter’s chagrin). This parade was not to be dismissed. I forced my now rebellious burning muscles to raise my camera once again and began snapping shots. Sure, some of the marchers looked a tad on the fringe, maybe a meal or three short, a car away from calling a box a home, a week or so away from a hot shower, but as far as I can figure that doesn’t exclude them from being part of the 99%.
The vast majority of the marchers looked like people you see all day as you go around running errands, stopping in shops, asking for assistance, and exchanging pleasantries. They were White, Black, Latino, and Asian. They were Lacoste wearing conservative-types; overweight suburban mom-types; very thin suburban, tight yoga leggings, mother-types; groovy haircut, rockin’ leather jacket creative-types; neatly groomed, button-down shirt tucked in grandfather-types—America’s melting pot—all right there as you please.
I jumped down to walk into the crowd for a few more shots and walked right up on the last “floats” of the parade—riot police riding shotgun on their armored vehicle. Now, they received a HUGE round of applause from the crowd still in the bleachers. Once again, I’d like to point out that the 99% were responding to the 99%—simply another category within the 99%. Because the last I heard, cops (short for constable on patrol; not a slur) aren’t millionaires. I think it’s safe to say that more than a few officers have lost a home to foreclosure in the last five years, are worried about having to declare bankruptcy because of exorbitant health care costs despite having insurance, or saw their savings or pensions wiped out during the financial collapse.
It was rather odd, though, to see one segment of the 99% booing another segment of the 99% which was being followed by yet another segment of the 99%.
The last segment was simply ignoring us all, clear in the knowledge that they had a mile to trek to get to their car and they were busy calculating the time it would take to stand in line at the nearest porta-potty versus kicking it into high gear, making it to the car, then sitting in a traffic jam of 1,000’s, all before they could relieve themselves in the comfort of their own commode.
My personal posse (a percentage of the 99% that’s such a speck I can’t even begin to calculate that in my non-mathematical mind) stood patiently by, letting me enjoy the moment—and for that I love them 100%.
* And my friend’s getting the dinner of her choice.
© Kat Ward 2012